The beehive starts off small in the spring. Maybe there's a few thousands bees and a queen inside, but over the course of weeks and months, the bees gather more and more nectar and pollen, the queen lays more eggs each day and the hive begins to get crowded.
In nature, a crowded hive will eventually swarm off which means anywhere from a few thousand to 20,000 bees plus the current queen will leave the hive in search of a new home. As a beekeeper, we try to prevent swarming by giving the bees more space in the hive. This allows the queen more room to lay eggs and the workers more space for their food.
When to Add Another Box to Your Beehive
When working with a Langstroth style beehive, you add boxes as the uppermost box is nearly full. A nearly full box is one that has 1-2 empty frames. See the video below for what I mean by an "empty frame". Empty frames might have some honeycomb in it or some bees, but it's not full.
If the uppermost box has 3-4 empty frames in it, you can add a box immediately or wait a few weeks. Either way is fine.
How to Add an Empty Box to Your Beehive
When adding an empty box to your hive, first fill your empty box with frames. Then put it on top of your upper most box in the hive and put the lid on top of that. If you have some extra frames of honey, you can put 1 or 2 in the empty box and put empty frames in the box already on the hive. This will encourage the bees to go up into the new box a little bit faster. However, this step is not necessary.
For further explanation and a demo of how to do this, watch the video above.
There is one time of the year when you don't have to worry about adding another box onto your hive and that is when the nectar flow is ending. When the nectar flow ends, the population usually goes down and the bees might bring in enough honey to sustain the hive, but won't be bringing in an excess of honey and therefore won't need more room in the hive.
A really easy way to tell if this is happening is by filling out an inspection sheet every time you open your hives. When you do this, you'll see how much honey is in the hive week-to-week and when the hive stops bringing in honey. Download our free beehive inspection sheet to guide you.
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